Q. When is a close call not a close call? A. When it is a
Confused? Let's try it again this time with "close" meaning
near and "CLOSE" meaning sales.
Q. When is a CLOSE call not a CLOSE call? A. When it is a
close call. Remember! CLOSE means an attempt to complete a sale and close
The vernacular of selling is indeed ironic, for there is a
world of difference between CLOSE calls and close calls
That difference equates to major $$$. Close calls cost
money. CLOSE calls bring in money. And one doesn't need to
know algebra to determine the delta in going from a dollar
expenditure to a dollar receipt.
The challenge: "How to reduce the close calls and make more
CLOSE calls?" There are many ways; but, none is more
critical than AVOIDING THE close (near) ONES FROM THE START.
Its not surprising that there are so many close calls in
sales. There is a whole system of psychology, sales
management and product development/marketing that fosters
their existence. Here's but a few:
1. Many prospects don't want to hurt a salesperson's
feelings; and sales people inturn don't want their feelings
hurt. So nobody tells the truth or asks for the truth. I
refer to this as "don't show me yours and I'll not show you
mine." It's kids play!
2. Sales management insists on a full forecast sheet; and
sale people comply by holding on to a "stiff" which is easier
than finding another qualified lead. I label this one as the
3. There are not adequate lead generation programs operating
to create a bubbling pot of qualified prospects that
naturally effervese to the top, which would obviate #1 & #2.
I call this "stupid."
4. Often product development and sales/marketing management
delude themselves about the validity buyer objections which
eventually croak a sale... and would have croaked the sale
from the start had the prospect been aware of their existence
back then. This one I call the "optimist." Seldom does
anyone ever ask whether a late stage objection was in fact an
initial stage misqualification. Such post-mortems are
normally reserved only for the loss of a major sale or the
building of a case to be used against someone. Yet, by
qualifying early and qualifying often, late stage objections
are minimized thus reducing close calls while maximizing
A triage is a system designed to produce the greatest benefit
from limited facilities or resources. In a triage, full
resources are applied to those capable of deriving the
greatest benefit from them and not to those who will die
inspite of their application or to those who will survive
without their application. Triages are set up for the
treatment of battlefield injuries; for the distribution of
food to the starving; and yes, even temporarily for the
reconnection of power after a hurricane.
Sales triage should be established for the same reason. To
optimize resources for closing business based on an on-going
Now, surely there are many of you that are currently saying
that you already do this by classifying prospects. Perhaps
you do. But, classifying prospects is not the same as
actually treating them on a resource priority basis.
For example, it's no revelation that a salesperson would
rather spend an afternoon at a prospect with whom s/he feels
comfortable, than with one where the feeling is unfriendly.
However, the chances are great that this prospect is already
classified as an A (that' why there's comfort). But this
time spent with the potential customer is counter to the
purpose of triage. Most class A prospects or customers would
or will buy, with or without as much hand holding.
Then there is a whole class of prospects that are tire
kickers. They have done it for so long that they are not
only good at it... but excellent. And because so, they are
capable of consuming enormous time and resources before being
discovered. In a sales triage, they rob a company of
valuable selling resources, thus dashing sales efficiency.
Quickly determining that they are perpetual close calls and
that they should be provided only minimal sales maintenance
coverage is of paramount importance. Sure, they may CLOSE one
day. But a triage is based on statistics; and statisically
the tire kicker is a long shot.
In between there is a class of prospect that will produce the
greatest return on pre-sales dollar invested. In terms of
the boiling pot anology in #3 above, these bubbles are on
the way up to the top of the pot. The more heat that you
give them...the faster they raise.
Ultimately the challenge is to seek ways that screen out the
late stage objections up front while not undermining the step
by step process of building value that goes on during the
sales cycle. Let's face it... most products have their
drawback and without this value adding process a stark
upfront recital of the ten most frequent objections to any
product would probably qualify the prospect list to zero.
It's doubtful that even Wart Hogs start off a spring court-
ship by showing off all their warts.
The following procedures help.
1. ALWAYS LEAVE AN "OUT". Building an "obligation" to buy
is a clever maneuver of skilled sales people... and there
are many CLOSES made via this manipulation that otherwise
would not have been made. However, there are often several
points during a sale where it is helpful to remind the person
that they have a right to say that they've lost interest. If
they have, much time will be saved by this honest exchange.
SALES TIP: If this "out" is not offered in business to
business selling, the sense of obligation mentioned above may
never materialize. However, if the out is offered to and
then declined by the prospect the "obligation" will be built.
2. ALWAYS SET A DEADLINE. Developing an internal sales
person to champion your product or service is key to CLOSING
a sale. Unfortuneately, they are mortal and can either run
out of stamina or political courage. Therefore, it's
necessary to set milestones based on time and accomplish
ments with these helpers and to make an easy understanding
with them that if they are not met, you're going into the
company through another route. This eliminates the go-around
hard feeling and the continuation of a masked misqualifica-
tion at a higher level.
SALES TIP: All sales people are drilled to understand that
they should call at the highest level. This is fine, except
that it is impossible for all to do if for no other reason
than the limits of the executives time. Consequently, sale
people have to learn ways to read that person within the
first couple of calls with other people.
3. ALWAYS HAVE SUCCESSIVE LINES OF SALES MANAGEMENT QUALIFY
THE SALESPERSON OR MANAGER BELOW. Theoretically this should
not be necessary. But it is. And the greatest testimony for
the value of such a discipline is the NASA countdown
checklist. Nothing is taken for granted; nothing is left to
memory; noboby's ego is bruised; and with one unfortunate
exception, nobody is left on base.
Always remember that there is some interested party who would
buy your product or service if only they were made aware of
its existence. You deny yourself this CLOSE call when
your're too wrapped up with close calls.
It's often quipped that close is only good in horseshoes.
That's not even true when someone else gets a ringer. And
that's the truth in sales, too!